National Park Road Trip Guide: Mountain West Edition

Explore from the open road to the top of the world.

By: The Outbound Collective
August 23, 2016

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The National Park Service Centennial is just around the corner and summer is winding down. That means if you haven’t gotten your summer road trip in yet, it’s time to make it happen! While the parks all over the country are unbelievable, it’s debatable if any region is more impressive that the Mountain West. There is just something special about the feeling you get as you drive the open road and watch the horizon change from flat and open, to rolling foothills, and eventually to staggering mountain peaks. And that can’t compare to the rush you get when you finally get out of the car and hike to the top of one of those mountains. That’s what this road trip guide is all about. Check out some of our community’s favorite adventures in the parks in the Mountain West and start making plans to see them for yourself!

Rocky Mountain National Park

7 Incredible Adventures in Rocky Mountain National Park


Photo: Eric Schuette

One of our Explorers Eric Schuette calls Colorado home and knows all the must-do’s for your road trip through the Rockies. Check out his adventure recommendations in the park and if you happen to be driving through Denver on your way, he also knows a thing or two about where to find a good beer. Learn more.

Hike to Nymph, Dream, Emerald, and Haiyaha Lakes


Photo: Ryan Mckinney

This 5.5 mile hike leads to four beautiful alpine lakes framed by towering mountain peaks and active glaciers. If you consider yourself an angler and have the time, bring your fishing gear and see if you can snag a trout or two. Learn more.

Hike to Sky Pond

At 10 miles, this is a longer hike that makes for a great backpacking trip. You’ll quickly reach Alberta Falls, a beautiful spot although typically more crowded. Continue on to several beautiful lakes for a bit of scrambling and solitude. Learn more.

Backpack to Lake Verna

Spend the weekend exploring the quiet side of Rocky Mountain National Park. Bring your fishing gear and keep an eye out for moose. Learn more.

Pit Stop: Salt Lake City, Utah


Photo: Lindsay Daniels

It’s tough to beat Salt Lake’s accessibility to the mountains and there’s plenty of delicious food and drink to fill you up after a day of adventure in the Wasatch Front. Learn more.

Grand Teton National Park

Explore Jenny Lake


Photo: Daniel Brittain

Is there any better way to break up a road trip than with a quick refreshing dip in a mountain lake? A trip to the Tetons isn’t complete without a day at Jenny Lake. Learn more.

Hike along the Gros Ventre River

For a mellow adventure with plenty of potential for wildlife viewing all year long, explore the Gros Ventre river on the border of the park. This is also a fantastic spot for camping. Learn more.

Backpack Paintrbrush and Cascade Canyons

This backpacking trip winds through nearly 20 miles of diverse terrain with spectacular views around every corner. Learn more.

Photograph the Grand Teton at the Snake River Overlook


Photo: Josh Packer

If you need a good spot to relax and take in the sunset or sunrise, this is your best bet. If you’re a photographer, this is your chance to get in touch with your inner Ansel Adams. Learn more.

Trail Run at Schwabacher Landing

A run along the Snake River at Schwabacher Landing is not only one of the most beautiful trails you’ll ever run, it’s also a great way to work out the stiffness in your legs from a long road trip. Learn more.

Sunrise Paddle at Oxbow Bend

Want to catch the sunrise in the company of river otters, beavers, moose, grizzly bears, and all types of waterfowl? Rent a kayak or canoe and spend the morning relaxing with the wildlife and taking in the scenery. Learn more.

Camp at Colter Bay Campground


Photo: Ryan Mckinney

If camping near a private beach and secluded trails sounds up your alley, Colter Bay is the spot for you. It’s also an amazing spot to work on your night photography. Learn more.

Yellowstone National Park

Hike above Grand Prismatic Spring


Photo: Chase Dekker

It’s tough to appreciate the scale of the world’s third largest hot spring from up close on the boardwalks. For a bird’s eye view, hike to the top of the nearby hill and gain a new appreciation for this gargantuan pool of steaming hot water. Learn more.

Stand Up Paddle Excursion in Yellowstone National Park

This SUP backpacking trip takes you where no roads or trails can. You’ll find total solitude and great opportunities for fly-fishing. Learn more.

Visit Old Faithful

You can’t visit Yellowstone and not check out Old Faithful. Although the tourist madhouse is a bit much, the eruption is really impressive and a reminder of the power of the Earth. Learn more.

Camp at Indian Creek Campground at Yellowstone NP


Photo: Kathleen Buenviaje

Indian Creek is home to 70 beautiful first-come first-served campsites that aren’t crammed in but actually quite spacious. Generators are also not allowed so you can plan on a peaceful setting. Learn more.

Capture the Sunset on the Yellowstone River

The Yellowstone River is one of the most scenic rivers in the country and provides photographers with an amazing location to photograph wildlife. Even if you leave the camera at home, it’s an ideal location to kick back and take in the sunset. Learn more.

Hike the Wapiti Lake Trail to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone


Photo: Jon King

Discover more opportunities for wildlife sightings and incredible views of massive waterfalls and peaceful lakes on this 5 mile hike through Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon. Learn more.

Glacier National Park

10 Must-Do Adventures in Glacier National Park


Photo: Noah Couser

Hike, paddle, and camp your way around one of America’s most impressive landscapes. With such a diversity of adventures to be had, this list is really just the tip of the iceberg. Learn more.

Hike to Sperry Glacier Basin

At 19 miles, this is a heck of a day hike. The upside is when you cover that much ground, you hike through a wide range of scenery and of course, since you’re in Glacier National Park, it’s all stunning. Learn more.

Hike and Climb Mt. Oberlin

Take in the epic 360 degree view in the company of mountain goats after a relatively easy 4 mile hike to the summit of Mt. Oberlin. Learn more.

Camp at Many Glacier Campground in Glacier National Park


Photo: Scott Kranz

Spend a night in the Many Glacier area at one of Glacier’s very best campgrounds. You’ll be in striking distance to some of the best sights, hikes, and adventures in the park. Learn more.

Hike to Swiftcurrent Lookout

You’ll have to earn the on-top-of-the-world feeling that comes with this hike, but it’s well worth the ascent. Don’t let the first few flat miles fool you, the trail gets steep fast as you approach the lookout. But it’s well worth it. Learn more.

Cover photo: Noah Couser

Stay energized outdoors with CLIF:

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.